We were taken on a metaphorical road trip of our projects as part of our Places to Live annual review. The hunch we had before we started was that we would discover how embedded our housing is in the traditions and contexts of each place. Picking out three groupings on this journey, a familiar trend can be observed.
Starting in the west on the beautiful island of Bute we 'visited' our steading projects for the Mount Stuart Estate. Historically these farms were rooted in the idea of fermtoun's , little village clusters of agricultural worker housing which became amalgamated into single holdings during the agricultural revolution. With the demise of the small acreage steading and further consolidation into bigger farms, the inevitable redundancy is being met by introducing a variety of tenures, affordable rentals and holiday settings organised around the rich typology of the community courtyard.
Our projects at Hallglen in Falkirk for Loretto Housing Association and at Parkview School in Dundee for Whiteburn, continues this theme of living around a common shared space. In Falkirk the courtyard grouping builds upon the memory of the original steading on the site, whilst at Dundee an original school courtyard setting is enhanced and extended to create a community cluster of buildings. The key in both cases is the car is not invited in, rather the scale and intimacy is about the user on foot.
Finally, even at the largest scale, the courtyard at Laurieston, Glasgow for the New Gorbals Housing Association is made up of an arrangement of large urban blocks. The intention here has been how to create intimacy in the scale of the city. The luxury of keeping cars out is not an option here, rather it is how the juxtaposition of the blocks can frame the setting whilst serving the obligatory vehicular movements. By necking the blocks together, intimate courts of mews housing are framed by their neighbours.
At the end of this whirlwind tour, only a few of the examples are mentioned above, the theme emerged that we are all looking for a sense of rootedness in our settlements. Whether on the land, in our towns or in our major cities, the creation of an oasis of calm framed by building has universal appeal. To that end the typology of the court remains one of the most remarkable purveyors of a sense of community in our arsenal of possibilities.